At this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, the talk was all about 5G and how this super-fast mobile network will create new data-driven opportunities for business.
The first public networks may only just be rolling out but, according to the GSMA, the association that represents the world’s mobile operators plus the companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, by 2025, 15 percent – that’s 1.4 billion – of the world’s mobile connections will be 5G.
More impressive is that the figure doesn’t include Internet of Things (IoT) devices that use a cellular connection. Within the next five years, the GSMA forecasts there will be 25 billion IoT connections globally and that they will generate a revenue of $1.1 trillion.
“The arrival of 5G forms a major part of the world’s move towards an era of Intelligent Connectivity,” said Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA. “5G will transform businesses and provide an array of exciting new services.”
It’s a transformation that will come about through the flow of data. Within the next five years, the amount of data consumers will generate and share via connected devices will top 1 trillion gigabytes a year. If that data is used properly it will revolutionize all business sectors.
“Data should be treated as a new factor of production,” said José María Álvarez-Pallete López, chairman and CEO, of global telco Telefonica, who floated the concept of data as the raw material that goes into every company’s “information factory” during his keynote.
How do you harness the data?
However, building an information factory is a challenge. During her presentation, Anjali Sud, CEO of video platform Vimeo, highlighted that video already accounts for 80 percent of all mobile traffic.
“If you want someone to see your message, it needs to have video,” Sud said. “Video is a more compelling way to grab someone’s attention in a world where our attention is everywhere.”
Yet taking all of that data and turning it into information the company can act upon is no easy task.
“Those insights always are useful. But one of the hardest things for so many people is data is available, but it’s how do I actually make that data insightful and useful,” Sud asked.
Discussions around data also raised the question of privacy. Álvarez-Pallete López called for the same level of protection globally that EU consumers enjoy from the GDPR regulations that went into force in May 2018 – especially considering people’s propensity to share data in exchange for free services.
“Data is like dignity. It has its own value,” Álvarez-Pallete López said. “We need a data bill of rights.”
Don’t let technology distract you from your customers
But as well as clearly communicating with consumers what data we need and what we are going to do with it, businesses also need to be able to separate the hype from the reality.
“I’ve seen 5G mentioned everywhere at the show,” began Groupon CEO Richard Williams, “but no one can explain to me what it means.”
Instead of getting excited, according to Williams, consumer-facing businesses need to examine any technology or innovation and ask themselves whether or not it is an “enabler” – something to close the distance between you and your customer.
“In my sector it’s about building seamless [customer] experience,” he said.
This is why Groupon will only consider machine learning or chatbots or in this instance 5G if it’s something that guarantees they can connect more deeply with customer and make that connection on a daily basis.